Five Winning Ideas From Canva Co-Founder Melanie Perkins You Can’t Afford To Miss
At just 34 years of age, Melanie Perkins is one of the youngest females to run a tech company valued over $1 billion, has been named the second-wealthiest woman in Australia, and the company that she co-founded, Canva, was recently valued at $40 billion. With the success of Canva, Melanie Perkins was named one of Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 list in 2016. If that’s not enough reason to be her fan, here are five winning ideas from Canva Co-Founder Melanie Perkins you can’t afford to miss…
Melanie Perkins wasn’t born to great wealth, wasn’t a savant, doesn’t boast an Ivy League degree (or any degree).
She wasn’t connected to the Silicon Valley crowd, didn’t gain notoriety through massive self-promotion online. But she had a compelling idea: professional quality graphic design shouldn’t be difficult for the average person. She spun that idea into a grand vision: Everybody should be able to publish their own graphic designs simply and elegantly. She created a company around that vision. Now she’s on her way to unicorn status. You can do the same.
Over the last decade, the design space has gone significant changes.
Adobe used to dominate and monopolize the booming software landscape with just a few competitors in the market. Only a few major players were the answer to the design problems of all the industry. One player that has dominated the industry is the startup valued at about $40 billion, Canva. The company has a user-friendly interface, and they have given non-designers the option to create their designs for their company. With the ease of usage for people, the growth of Canva became unstoppable, and their company’s success is staggering.
Running a startup has taught Melanie Perkins a lot about running a business, human resources and what good product design entails.
Canva was launched in 2013, and Melanie Perkins has led the Sydney-based company’s growth and now has 55 million monthly users ranging from just individual creators to SMBs to even Fortune 500 companies. With the success of Canva, Melanie Perkins has shared some of the things she did to make Canva as successful as it is now.
Read on to learn how Melanie Perkins did it, with five key ideas that you, too can implement to find success.
So how did Melanie Perkins go from selling scarves in a market to creating a multi-billion-dollar empire? As Rome was not built in a day, so is Melanie Perkins’ achievement, which is not an overnight success! Stick with us, as we share the ‘winning lessons’ by the Billionaire herself. Here’s five winning ideas you can learn from Melanie Perkins’ success.
Idea #1: You Must Have Determination and Guts
The strongest attribute Melanie Perkins has is determination. It takes a long time to create a company and there is a lot of rejection, failure and times where it would be a reasonable thing to give up. A great example of determination is the fact that it took Melanie Perkins three years from meeting their first investor to actually landing the first investment.
When Melanie Perkins first attempted to raise money for Canva, she was told no more than 100 times.
Let’s face it, most startup founders would give up after 12 months, but if you keep an eye on what you are trying to achieve and really keep focused on the vision (the vision is what people will rally behind in time), you will eventually break through and come to the right solution. Not only do you need to have determination but you also need to have guts. Melanie spoke to lots of people about Canva long before a product even existed, which takes real guts and belief in what you’re doing.
Changing your perception when you receive a “no” in business can be quite liberating.
Melanie Perkins even called people off Yellow Pages to see if they could support and make any publicity for the company. If she only accepted her faith and just saw it as a failure, she would not have a billion-dollar business now. She kept hustling for more than three years until she finally met investor Bill Tai. Melanie Perkins does not give up and believes that she is one step closer to a yes for every’ no‘ she receives. She thinks that if she calls 20 people, one person will likely say yes to her. This is still her motivation, even 20 years later.
Melanie Perkins has said
Discipline and determination working in tandem provide a potent, progressive path to success.
They require no magical powers, inherent qualities, or educational degree. They do take self-awareness, passion to accomplish something meaningful, and a desire to one day look back and feel pride in what you have achieved. While discipline provides the needed focus to achieve success, determination, in contrast, entails having and passionately working toward a major goal through thick and thin. Determination is what separates those who are in it for the long run and those who will burn out quickly. It’s made up of two things: firmness of choice and action over time.
Determination or firmness of purpose will motivate you to move forward to success as you clearly know where you are going.
With determination there is no for an answer. You always see some light in the tunnel to guide you through and every challenge has a silver lining. You will be confronted with many challenges and failures as you march to your world of success. What will make a difference in your journey is your determination to succeed. With your determination you will be in position to overcome all challenges. Success does not just happen out of nowhere, it comes from a strategy to succeed supported by strength of character. Determined people apply the success formula as they march to their world of success.
Idea #2: Focus on Small Things
The rough idea of Canva popped into the mind of melanie Perkins when she was just 15, studying at a university in Perth. She, as a teen, had exceptional observational skills and wanted to do something big. She used to teach fellow students about graphic designing, to earn some side income. Back then, she realized the issues faced by them. The complicated interface and tedious workflow made it extremely difficult for the students to explore and self-learn. Getting inspired by this, Melanie decided to make the best out of the opportunity before establishing Canva.
Whatever your business idea, go niche before you go wide.
Many entrepreneurs believe that to impress investors they must demonstrate a gigantic market along with a winning strategy to enter it broadly. But savvy investors know that few new companies have the bandwidth or capital resources to execute on such a broad strategy out of the gate. Investors do want to see that you know what the broad market is for your product or service, where that huge upside potential lies. But they’ll generally appreciate that your plan is to tackle one great niche first. She was told by one of the bankers who were present when Jeff Bezos was first pitching Amazon that a major factor in their eventual backing was that Bezos realized that someday millions of people would buy millions of different products online, but that his plan was to prove it with books, then music.
Keep in mind that the problem you solve must be ambitious.
Melanie Perkins has said
The first step is to start. The road will become clearer as you go.
There’s no way she would be doing what she’s doing now if she hadn’t taken that first step some years ago. As university students, with her co-founder Cliff Obrecht, she sat down and mapped out a plan for Fusion Books. She borrowed some money from family and found a contractor who agreed to build the first version of their platform. They were naive and didn’t know what a startup was or even who VCs were, but that didn’t stop them. Starting now is about having the courage to say yes to more things more often. It’s switching things up in your life and saying goodbye to regrets. No more putting things on the back burner until you have more time, funds or can be bothered.
Taking small steps has power, the steps add up over time and each step taken propels you closer to your goal.
When your idea, dream or vision grows up and becomes a toddler then a teenager and then an adult you will look back with pride and say to yourself “Wow! I did it.” Taking action is the most important step towards success. The simple truth is that dreams, visions and goals are achieved and accomplished only through action. None of the theories and plans will work if you don’t take any action. Dream it, think it, plan it, then do it. Execution is the secret ingredient, many people can have the same idea but what sets them apart is how they execute it.
Idea #3: Don’t Listen to Naysayers
Many times, Melanie Perkins had to believe that she could make a success of what she was setting out to achieve. At just 19, after putting her college degree on hold, she hit the road to try and raise funding for her big idea, but she was continually rejected. It’s during these darkest times that you need to rely on your self-belief, which will get through no matter what life throws at you.
Don’t ever be swayed by naysayers, because the easiest thing to find in the world is someone who gives you a whole list of reasons why your big idea will fail.
Often people are just scared that you’ll achieve your dream when they haven’t fulfilled theirs. It’s time to prove them wrong. There are people who will tell you your idea is too big, or you’re too young, or you don’t have the right skills. Ignore them. Solve a big problem that you care about. If you have the vision and drive to make it happen, then keep plugging away. Starting a company is a long journey. No one cares about your idea unless you can show them why you do.
To succeed, you must be willing to find people that like you.
There’s a kind of beautiful self-selection process that happens when you are trying to pursue something when you don’t tick many of the typical boxes. The only people who invest in you do so because they believe in you. Which means of all the hundreds of investors she’s met over the years, the people who believed in her the most are the ones who ended up investing in her company. It’s pretty cool, because it means that in the end, she ended up with a great group of investors who believed in her vision. You will largely become who you surround yourself with. If you only associate with negative people, you’ll likely be a negative person as well. If you surround yourself with people who are going after their dreams, overcoming their fears and developing their talents, you will do the same.
Naysayers can’t believe in you because they don’t even believe in themselves.
When they hear you talking about your plans and aspirations, they think “could I do that?”. The answer is usually no. And they think that if they can’t do something, then no one else can. Especially not another “normal person” like you. So they try to talk you out of your ideas and encourage you to be “realistic”. The naysayer knows he will feel miserable if you succeed at something and get ahead of them, so they will maliciously try to sabotage you. If you say you want to start a business, a naysayer will typically not critique your idea with reason and encourage you to come up with a different idea — they will just keep telling you it’s risky and that you should stick to your predictable job. If you let naysayers not even allow you to take your first step to get there, you’ll never get there. Stop listening to them. Do what you need to.
The moral: Follow your passions, ignore the naysayers and stay true to yourself.
Imagine if Steve Jobs decided to listen to others when they said no one would buy a smartphone. Or if the team behind Uber or Airbnb had been told that no one would ever use their services. The fact is there are many out there who just don’t have the same visionary abilities you do. They can’t see how innovative an idea is and how it could become something truly disruptive. And that’s OK, because you do — and others will, too, if you’ve done your due diligence to ensure it will work. Having a strong belief in yourself can help us cut out the empty noise that comes from naysayers. Once we believe in ourselves we won’t let their opinion sway our self-belief.
Idea #4: Give Back
Melanie Perkins and her team have always been big on giving, so after its recent $40 billion valuation, Canva decided to give a 30% stake in the business to a charity that aims to eliminate poverty. This equates to a massive $12 billion donation. I feel it’s always important for entrepreneurs to use their business to give back. You can start off small — obviously we aren’t all able to give away billions of dollars. Provide time or services to organizations pro bono, and go from there.
With the success of Canva, Melanie Perkins has been known to support 25,000 non-profit organizations.
When she was interviewed by Entrepreneur, she said that Canva currently houses 25,000 non-profits that use Canva for fundraising. “That’s what makes all of the work worth it,” she told Entrepreneur. Canva is already part of the ‘1% Pledge’ in which businesses commit a fraction of their profits and time to charitable causes, and Perkins said the “pride and motivation” she had seen it foster among staff and customers created a virtuous circle. Businesses need to adopt a new paradigm. One in which the business serves a higher purpose than maximizing profits. One way your business can meet consumer expectations is by giving back. This could mean giving to charity, a non-profit or an organization within your community.
Giving back to the community can supercharge your marketing by building your brand’s recognition and reputation.
Studies have found that 85 percent of consumers will switch from one brand to another associated with a cause the favor, with 91 percent of millennials willing to switch. Two-thirds of millennials and 53 percent of the general population use social media to engage around corporate social responsibility. You don’t have to make a massive million dollar donation to a charity to make a difference. Donating a small percentage of your profits or fees to a charity that’s important to you will add-up over time. It will definitely make a difference.
Making a positive change in your local community or aligning with any charitable initiative means that you are making a positive global impact for the betterment of society.
This also enables you to connect with like-minded people from around the world, and these collaborations can lead to mutually beneficial business. When you share the same vision, you can be a part of a bigger movement encouraging changes around the world. Businesses giving back to the community know that the secret to living is giving. Is your business looking to start making a positive impact? Whether it’s supporting your local youth sports programs or creating environmental grants that benefit farmers across the globe, you and your business can make a big difference today by giving back.
Many people start a business for more than just the profit.
Alongside the freedom and creativity that comes with being an entrepreneur, running your own venture gives you the opportunity to build a business that gives back to good causes. According to Forbes, more than 88% of consumers think companies should try to achieve their business goals while improving society and the environment. 83% of consumers also think that companies should support charities and nonprofits with financial donations. In fact, the average American consumer will drive nearly 11 minutes out of their way to buy a cause-marketing product! And when choosing between two brands of equal quality and price, 90% of US shoppers are likely to switch to a cause branded product. Philanthropy can have big benefits for your brand, and if you embed giving back into your business you have a powerful opportunity to create a significant impact in the world.
Idea #5: Take Note On Your Customers Feedback
As entrepreneurs, we all think we have the next best business idea — and often we’re right. But what really solidifies an idea and makes it a great success is listening to your potential customer’s feedback and building solutions that help support them. Melanie Perkins started Canva after feeling frustrated that working with design programs was too complicated. Often you would need to engage a graphic designer, which was quite expensive, and there was no other solution on the market.
More often than not, you think that you have the brightest ideas. However, listening to your customers’ feedback is essential and will make or break any business ideas you have.
It is better to know what they think about your thoughts, considering that these solutions help your business support your customers better. When Perkins started Canva, she was initially frustrated because working with many design programs was way too complicated. She came up with Canva because she was having a hard time using different tools for her designing needs. Of course, there is always the option to hire a graphic designer, which is quite expensive, and there were no other options in the market. Before creating Canva, Melanie Perkins had founded Fusion Book, which is a create your yearbook app. The customers of Fusion Book then told them what worked and what didn’t, and eventually, they made some modifications to create Canva. When Canva came to be, it was like a Godsend solution to the consumers since designing is now as easy as 1-2-3.
First and foremost, consumer feedback is a direct reflection of the customers’ experience with your brand.
There is no better way to learn more about your customers than through the feedback they voluntarily supply to you. In a traditional brick and mortar store, this type of feedback is largely unavailable to business owners. Very rarely do shoppers return to a store to offer face-to-face feedback or suggest ways to improve a product or service. Often the only negative feedback is given though returns or by the customer taking their business elsewhere. Having the ability to gather positive and negative feedback from customers is a bonus business should not take lightly. Any business desiring to learn more about its customers’ wishes, expectations, and wants, needs only set up a way for them to leave feedback.
Customers want to have conversations with your brand.
When a customer asks you a question, do you double-check your assumptions about their intended outcome? So often we take customer inquiries at face value, or simply assume we know what is meant. No matter what your job is, you have customers, and clarifying your customers’ intended outcome can improve customer experience. When asked the most effective way a brand can understand customers’ feelings toward their customer experience, nearly 70% of customers selected the option of brands asking them for direct feedback. Yet, only 40% of brands thought this was the best way to understand customer emotions, showing how most brands continue to underestimate the importance of customer conversations.
Finding out what your clients think is the only way that you can give them the best customer experience.
You can use this information to adjust how you do business and satisfy your clients’ needs more effectively. The opinions shared by customers help you ensure that the end product will actually meet their expectations, solve their problems and fulfill their needs. It is very important to know what suits the customers well, what was their least favorite aspect of it, and why. Showing that you truly listen to your customers’ opinions sells better than anything. After all, the product is made for them, so it should be as close to what they desire as possible. Within the good and the bad, you can find gems that make it easier to adjust and adapt the customer experience over time. In short, feedback is the way to keep your community at the heart of everything you do.
Building a billion-dollar business is no easy feat, but as the saying goes, if you aim for the moon the worst that will happen is that you’ll land on a star. By learning from Melanie Perkins’ ways, you too could set yourself up for success and create the next unicorn. Fairytales can come true.
Indeed, there is a lot to learn from the Billionaire apart from the aforementioned lessons.
We know, it is easier said than done, but one can try to incorporate as many qualities as he or she can. In the end, it is a tried and tested method which can lead you to something you have dreamt of! If you continue to do what you say you’re going to do, and you’re persistent, it will build up your credibility over time with the influential person. “I think I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself. And I think that sort of internal locus of control has been pretty strong,” said Melanie Perkins when asked about her secret of success.
Melanie Perkins had little experience, little capital, was a Silicon outsider, but held to her vision.
The list of factors that tend to make people feel like they are on the outside is, unfortunately, endless. That said, it’s never too late to exercise the power of determination. Figure out something you’d like to succeed at, and then do it. The first thing could be small. Learn to juggle. Learn to speak in public. Learn anything, Work really hard for however long it takes you to succeed at that thing. Determination is like a muscle, the more you flex it, the stronger it gets.
What we need in this world is a broad range of people achieving crazy big goals across every single industry.
Following your dreams can be difficult on its own, and even harder when you’re faced with people constantly telling you ‘no’. With so many reasons to quit, sometimes throwing in the towel seems like the only way out. The stats can look frightening and it can seem intimidating when it’s not a well-trodden path, but let’s pave the path forward towards a better tomorrow, and create the world that we all want to live in. In the end, we’ll see better stats and change our future — for everyone.
You can do the same, no matter where you find yourself or your company today!
What do you think about her success story? Do you find that Melanie Perkins is a role model for building a startup from scratch and finding investors? Leave your comment below, I’d be glad to hear from you 🙂
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.